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NBA FINALS: LAKERS 99, DETROIT 91

White Stars Needed: Bird

Asked at a TV taping whether the league lacks such players, he says he would like to see more, adds 'but it is a black man's game.'

June 09, 2004|Larry Stewart | Times Staff Writer

Larry Bird, during a roundtable discussion taped by ESPN, said he would like to see more white superstars in the NBA, and added, "but it is a black man's game, and it will be forever."

Bird, Magic Johnson, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony participated in the one-hour discussion, taped at Milan High School in Indiana. The show, to be televised at 4 p.m. Thursday, is called "Two on Two," a reference to Bird and Johnson being retired legends and James and Anthony having just finished their rookie seasons.

Jim Gray, the host, asked, "Does the NBA lack enough white superstars, in your opinion?"

"Well, I think so," Bird said. "You know when I played, you had me and Kevin [McHale] and some others throughout the league. I think it [having white stars] is good for a fan base, because, as we all know, the majority of fans are white America.

"If you just had a couple of white guys in there, you might get them a little excited. The greatest athletes in the world are African American."

Bird also said that, when he was playing and a white player was assigned to guard him, he found that "insulting and disrespectful."

Regarding Gray's question about white stars in the NBA, Johnson said, "We need some more L.B.'s, Larry Birds. I mean, you want that. Larry Bird, you see, can go into any neighborhood. When you say Larry Bird, black people know who he is, Hispanics, whites, and they give him respect."

NBA Commissioner David Stern, who was at Tuesday night's game, said he would reserve comment until he had seen the entire interview.

"From the way it has been reported to me, Larry and Magic were just having some fun with each other," Stern said.

*

Charles Barkley went on ABC's pregame show with Ahmad Rashad on Tuesday, which didn't sit too well with Barkley's employer, TNT.

TNT executives were upset that they were not informed that Barkley would be part of the ABC show.

"It continues a pattern of inappropriate behavior" by ABC, said TNT's senior vice president of communications, Greg Hughes. "We were not informed of Charles Barkley's appearance in advance, and they failed to mention his association with TNT."

TNT's anger was apparently aimed at Mike Pearl, who was TNT's executive producer of sports before taking a similar position at ABC about a year ago. Sources said TNT executives were also upset that Pearl had talked to Barkley about a position on "Monday Night Football" and that Pearl had come into their "green room" unannounced during the Western Conference finals, which were televised exclusively by TNT.

Barkley said he was invited on to ABC's pregame show by Rashad, not Pearl, and that Pearl was not even aware he would be at the game.

Said Pearl on Tuesday night: "As far as I'm concerned, it's over."

*

ABC was involved in a more minor tiff with HBO earlier Tuesday.

HBO put out the word that the season's final episode of "The Sopranos" was the most-watched prime-time program Sunday night, with nearly 11 million viewers. ABC countered that Game 1 of the NBA Finals topped that by 2.4 million, with 13.4 million viewers.

HBO claimed it was talking about the 9-10 p.m. period. Game 1 was seen before prime time in Western time zones.

HBO spokesman Ray Stallone said: "The night was a winner for HBO, and it was also a winner for ABC, the NBA and the Detroit Pistons."

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